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Old 12-28-2012, 08:12 PM
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Default Framing Intimacy

"Framing Intimacy" is an odd title, I know. But I can't quickly think of a better title for what I hope to discuss.

I'm using the sense of the word "frame" which relates to linguistics, social science and political discourse (anthropology, etc.)... The basic idea is that words and concepts are imbedded in a larger field of words and concepts and meanings..., and therefore a fair bit of "metacommunication" is often necessary in communicating an idea, experience, perception, etc.

Oftentimes a word or idea or concept will be so nearly ubiqutous or popular that its framing will be taken for granted rather automatically by most people. Attempts to create an alternative frame in such situations can be quite challenging, both for the originator of the 'alternative' frame and also for the collaborators in communication. (Communication is always a collaborative art.)

I have something I'd like to talk about, but it is clear that there is no concise way to convey just what it is, because I'm utilizing a particular framing for "intimacy" which needs first to become explicit.

Were we all to just jump in here and talk about our thoughts and feelings about "intimacy," we'd likely discover rather shortly that we're not all applying the same "frame" for this word. Indeed, we may shortly discover that we're dealing with multiple frames with varying kinds and degrees of similarity and dissimilarity. "Intimacy" means different things to different people. It can also mean several differing things to the very same person!

But I'm not here to write an essay in the opening post. I hope for this to be a collaborative inquiry. So I'll just add a few more opening words and then open this up to conversation.

Most broadly, I want to explore and discuss intimacy -- the word and the experience. More narrowly, I'd also like to convey to the interested reader / participant my own tendency in framing intimacy.

Here are some initial hints of my own tendency in framing intimacy. This is the distilled version.:

I tend to think of intimacy (broadly) as "closeness" combined with affection and/or appreciation, warmth, kindness ... along with a willingness to be unguarded, and/or spontanious..., and "vulnerable".

I tend to think of intimacy in relation to knowledge, both in terms of familiarity / knowing and not-knowing. Not-knowing, here, has a sort of "zen" flavor. Not-knowing, here, does not refer to a lack of factual knowledge so much as a willingness to encounter the other/s with a sense of wonder and openness. Further, my tendency is to frame "intimacy" in light of my notion that we can't really be "intimate" (in this frame) without a sense of "wonder" and "mystery," a sense of one's self and the other as largely unknown (or even largely unknowable). Again, "knowledge" here is of the factual / cognitive sort -- which, arguably, is not the only kind of "knowing".

Obviouisly, this thread will be more of interest to the philosophically inclined.
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Old 12-28-2012, 08:37 PM
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I'm not going to be in the habit of multiple postings, but -- in the interest of inspiring conversation --, I'd like to say just a little more ... some words conveying some of the shape of what I want to enquire into.

In recent days/months/years I've noticed that I have a tendency to frame intimacy in such a way that sets me apart from people who frame it quite differently. This difference is oftentimes most obvious to me in relation to sexuality. My tendency to frame my own sexuality *as* a particular mode or expression of "intimacy" (as I tend to frame "intimacy") is oftentimes not the same framing others are providing (for themselves, with others).

Many people engage, for example, in "casual sex" with people whom they have no desire to explore or express "intimacy" (as I tend to frame it). And I have often wondered "where I am at" with the outward appearance of "casual sex". The outward appearance of "casual sex" is what the bodies are doing and ..., basically, for how long -- in the sense of whether they repeat the event, how often.... But I've concluded that it is the inward experience and attitude that's crucial for me, not the duration or repetition of the connection or association. Quality is, here, more crucial than quantity.

[The example of "casual sex" is intended only to mark a far end of one of several kinds in a spectrum, as I shall indicate over time.]

Okay, this should be enough for now. I could go on, but this is intended to be a conversation!
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Old 12-29-2012, 05:28 AM
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chewy, this is a quite chewy thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by River View Post
Most broadly, I want to explore and discuss intimacy -- the word and the experience. More narrowly, I'd also like to convey to the interested reader / participant my own tendency in framing intimacy.
So, are you interested in others' frames as well? Or having the discussion within your frame?

Quote:
Originally Posted by River View Post
Here are some initial hints of my own tendency in framing intimacy. This is the distilled version.:

I tend to think of intimacy (broadly) as "closeness" combined with affection and/or appreciation, warmth, kindness ... along with a willingness to be unguarded, and/or spontanious..., and "vulnerable".
I suffer quite a bit from thinking and wanting to think without being very specific or precise. I tend to think with my feelings (which I'm certain makes no sense at all, but I do that).

Quote:
Originally Posted by River View Post
I tend to think of intimacy in relation to knowledge, both in terms of familiarity / knowing and not-knowing. Not-knowing, here, has a sort of "zen" flavor. Not-knowing, here, does not refer to a lack of factual knowledge so much as a willingness to encounter the other/s with a sense of wonder and openness. Further, my tendency is to frame "intimacy" in light of my notion that we can't really be "intimate" (in this frame) without a sense of "wonder" and "mystery," a sense of one's self and the other as largely unknown (or even largely unknowable). Again, "knowledge" here is of the factual / cognitive sort -- which, arguably, is not the only kind of "knowing".
I like that, and it works for me as a frame. I'm a little confused, you say it does not refer to lack of factual knowledge, and then you say knowledge is factual knowledge.

When I was a teen, I wasn't incredibly discriminating, and even more undisciplined in thought than i am now. Intimacy was what happened when clothes were off (or right before they came off). I subscribed to the notion of the 'one' and that he would be my everything. I quickly discovered that was a useless premise. And then I discovered girls.

What I am currently discovering is how amazingly deep I can feel, how close, and yet be so full of not-knowing my partners. I feel like they will be eternal mysteries to me, I will never fully know them; and that's one of the things that inspires me to continue.

It used to be frustrating, I felt I had to know, and I had to know everything, and right now, plz. Now, it's very okay (some days more than others) to not-know, and enjoy the anticipation of exploring and finding out.
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Old 12-29-2012, 03:42 PM
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So, are you interested in others' frames as well? Or having the discussion within your frame?
Oh, yes, I'm definitely interested in other people's frames! And I'm interested in sharing my own frame/s, as well as introspecting about my own frame/s -- making it/these explicit. I used the phrase "tendency to frame" as I did because I recognize that I've got more than just one active frame in my mind/psyche. The one I call my "tendency" is the dominant one, and probably the one I'm most familiar with. I would also note that I prefer that frame to any others I'm aware of. So I suppose I'm fortunate, as it could have been that my cognitive framing and my emotional (etc.) experience were incongruent. For example, I could frame things as I do conceptually while, say, desiring a lot of "intimacy"-free sex with strangers whom I treat as objects. That would be highly incongruent.



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I suffer quite a bit from thinking and wanting to think without being very specific or precise. I tend to think with my feelings (which I'm certain makes no sense at all, but I do that).
I think it is good that you are aware of this about yourself. It may be that you are somewhere near the low end of the "verbal spectrum," as I informally call it. A "high verbal" person (like myself) is a person who has developed verbal communication skills to a fairly high level. That is, they know a fair bit about how to translate or interpret experience in language. (Language, as I see it, is grounded in experience.)

Being low verbal is not anything to be ashamed of. Nor is it a permanent and unchangable condition. It just happens to be that some people are temperamentally inclined to develop their verbal skills/intelligence to a high level while others are more inclined to develop other skill sets which are not so much verbal.

Language is rarely "specific or precise," even when weilded by masters. But its masters understand this, and so don't expect or demand the sorts of precision which are inappropriate to the available tools. That said, it can be extremely helpful to try using language to convey one's thinking -- both to one's self and with others. "Convey", here is an interesting word, as it suggests communication and imparting, but also laying down a path in which discovery and understanding may emerge. Here I have a mental image of a "conveyance" (bicycle, car...) and a road or trail. In some respects the conveyance and the road or trail are intertwined, such that each emerge together. Neither quite exists without the other. Verbal thinking is what allows us to understand experience in the verbal form. Dancing is one way to understand non-verbal thinking, somatic thinking.... Visual arts and music have their own modes of non-verbal thinking, etc....


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Originally Posted by NovemberRain View Post
I like that, and it works for me as a frame. I'm a little confused, you say it does not refer to lack of factual knowledge, and then you say knowledge is factual knowledge.
I've dabbled in the study of philosophy, and while dabbling in it I came to understand that the very notion of the possibility of non-cognitive knowledge is controversial among professional philosophers / academics. But I'm actually quite comfortable embracing a concept of knowledge which allows for knowledge to be either cognitive or non-cognitive. (We'll avoid for now the controversy over what the word "congitive" means!) Factual knowledge is presented as facts / words ... sentences..... Anyway, the phrase not-knowing which I used just isn't centered on a lack of factual knowledge, per se. One can both have factual knowledge about a person or a thing and also embody an attitude and awareness of "not-knowing" (which is a sort of modern zen phrase). Not-knowing, in this context, is basically a state of available readiness and openness of mind and body which tends not to be goal oriented. It's a quality of "presence" which embodies openness and wonder. Factual knowledge may be present, but it goes rather to the background as a state of rapt attention and presence emerges in the foreground.
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Old 01-06-2013, 10:06 AM
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"Intimacy" means different things to different people. It can also mean several differing things to the very same person!

I want to explore and discuss intimacy -- the word and the experience.
I like the bucket system.

I believe our whole health picture is made of mind, body, heart, and soul.
  • Mental health and well being.
  • Physical health and well being.
  • Emotional health and well being.
  • Spiritual health and well being.

They are all interconnected to make up the "whole health picture" for me.

So "intimacy" to me corresponds in the buckets too.
  • Mental intimacy -- the sharing of ideas, beliefs, concepts, communication, thoughts. There's a spectrum.
  • Physical intimacy -- touch, gestures. From tickling, kissing, hugging, sex. Again -- a spectrum of possible activities that are physically intimate.
  • Emotional intimacy -- the sharing of feelings, vulnerbale. The yummy feeling ones or the yucky feeling ones. More spectrum.
  • Soul intimacy -- the baring of one's soul, dreams, desires, joie de vivre. What makes you feel ALIVE. Last spectrum.

There's a spectrum inside each bucket. Take physical intimacy for example -- that bucket can hold kisses of various types, handshakes, sex, tickling, stroking, massage, etc.

Depending on the relationship with the person in question what and how much I'm willing to share will vary.

I am willing to strip down near nekkid for strangers to touch me -- if those strangers are my doctor or massage therapist. I am not up for that physical intimacy with random strangers. I don't even like strangers standing to close to me!

I'm willing to hug my mom. I'm not going to have sex with her.

Body is an easy bucket because it is tangible. Sometimes I see people trying to make body intimacy do the work of other kinds of intimacies.

Sometimes that is ok. Someone dies, someone else is mourning. Sometimes just holding their hand in the ministry of presence is enough. Sometimes it is not, and they need to be able to talk (mind intimacy) and cry (emotional intimacy) and bare their soul in some fashion.

I once had a BF who was not great at communication about his feelings and was not willing to grow the skills for better sharing of mind/heart intimacy. He'd try to solve it by showing me affection with hugs and kisses. Which are nice and show me he loves me, but didn't exactly let me in or shares his inner life with me. Touching is not meeting all the need for closeness in the mind and heart buckets. The body bucket being overfull with tons of hugging is not doing much about the empty heart/mind buckets, is it?

Rita Mae Brown put it nicely in "Bingo" when Regina and Nicole are talking... I abridge it here to help illustrate my spin:
"Maybe human relationships are like a clock. With most people the relationship is 15 minutes or 90 degrees on the dial. Sex would be part of the circle. Part of the 360 degrees. And what is so strange is, you could sleep with someone and not complete the circle. Sex isn't enough. It is necessary for full understanding, but not enough. Get it?

"I don't know. What are we?"

"We are 45 minutes. Three quarters of the clock. Close, but I don't know everything and neither do you."

"Are you 60 minutes, 360 degrees with Jack?"

"No. I don't know that any woman gets the whole circle with a man. Maybe. But I've got 45 minutes with Jack -- a different part of the circle though. He has what you miss. And you have what he misses. Ironic."
If there is such thing as an "intimacy clock" with 15 minute or 90 deg portions each representing mind intimacy, body intimacy, heart intimacy, and soul intimacy... I've experience different kinds of intimacies and different degrees in my relationships.

Even with the activity (ex: tickling). Even in the same person -- the intimacies shared could change over time. I've tickled my mother as a child, but not much since I was adult. I still hug and kiss her though.

I tickle, hug and kiss my kid a lot. I figure as she ages she won't be doing raspberries on my stomach much and having tickle fights on the couch. Get them in now then! I'm pretty sure I'll still hug and kiss her as an adult. I know I won't piggyback her as an adult! I've already stopped that. DH is lingering on the piggybacks but she's getting heavy even for him. Then end of that physical intimacy with the kid will one day come for him too.

But I don't share the physical intimacy of tickling with just anyone -- I don't tickle the bank teller. EVER! As a child or adult!

I would NOT share sex with my mother or my kid. I do with my spouse and if I took another lover, I would with them. Another slice even if within the same "physical intimacy" range portion of the clock.

At one time, my DH was my BF. I shared body intimacy with him as his lover. We shared a lot of mind intimacy and some heart intimacy in long conversations. I was not prepared to offer him a full 15 min on heart though -- I was getting over a break up and not up for diving deep too fast in that bucket with him though I certainly enjoyed him as a lover. He was in the same place at the time so it worked out. And I def. wasn't ready to offer clocking any soul intimacy time with him back then.

That heart & soul intimacy thing unfolded later on in the relationship. Some things are just earned in time.

Galagirl

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Old 01-06-2013, 03:37 PM
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This is a great thread, and I want to participate but I don't have as much time as I'd like.

But this (below) is very accurate for me.
Quote:
Originally Posted by River View Post
I tend to think of intimacy (broadly) as "closeness" combined with affection and/or appreciation, warmth, kindness ... along with a willingness to be unguarded, and/or spontanious..., and "vulnerable".
I think vulnerability is perhaps the most important piece to me. It's hard for me to imagine feeling intimacy without that. Maybe it would be insightful to consider what makes communication NOT be intimate?

When I see a vulnerability, it makes me want to hold or help or touch or share. It seems to be what comes first. If you see something in someone else, then you feel something (appreciation, warmth, etc) in return. Conversely, if you share a (fear, hope or dream - something you care about) then you hope for those feelings in return.

Some people are scared to show their own vulnerability when they see it in others, which prompts them to attack the 'weakness'.
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Old 01-06-2013, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by River View Post
I think it is good that you are aware of this about yourself. It may be that you are somewhere near the low end of the "verbal spectrum," as I informally call it. A "high verbal" person (like myself) is a person who has developed verbal communication skills to a fairly high level. That is, they know a fair bit about how to translate or interpret experience in language. (Language, as I see it, is grounded in experience.)

Being low verbal is not anything to be ashamed of. Nor is it a permanent and unchangable condition. It just happens to be that some people are temperamentally inclined to develop their verbal skills/intelligence to a high level while others are more inclined to develop other skill sets which are not so much verbal.
I had to sit with this quite awhile to respond. I am so not low verbal. I have, as I've aged, become more careful to choose my words. Currently, at work, I have an employee who pretty much suffers from verbal diarrhea. She cannot stop. I have tried saying, 'yes, you told me blahdyblah' and she has to go back to the beginning. She's incapable of adjusting her wordstream to be appropriate to the conversation. It's quite a challenge; and also an illumination for me to be more precise.

I was referring more something like NLP, which describes how a person uses their senses. I am actually highly kinesthetic, which is a feeling sense; and I have a highly developed visual/verbal, because (I believe, because) most of the world operates in the visual, and I am highly adaptive, and have learned (well) to function in a visual/verbal world.

I tend to hang out with people of very high intelligence, and while I am intelligent, I often feel like I'm barely qualified. My formal education doesn't nearly approach the education that my parents had, or my friends. I often feel that I'm just smart enough to not appear stupid. [I've been working on it all my life, it's not a huge deal ~ I'm just trying to show 'where I come from']

Because I'm kinesthetic, and intuitive, I often don't have the words to explain how I reached any given conclusion or point. Hanging out with intelligent people, who are trained in logic and debate, leaves me feeling that I'm less precise. But certainly not less verbal.

Quote:
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Language is rarely "specific or precise," even when weilded by masters. But its masters understand this, and so don't expect or demand the sorts of precision which are inappropriate to the available tools. That said, it can be extremely helpful to try using language to convey one's thinking -- both to one's self and with others. "Convey", here is an interesting word, as it suggests communication and imparting, but also laying down a path in which discovery and understanding may emerge. Here I have a mental image of a "conveyance" (bicycle, car...) and a road or trail. In some respects the conveyance and the road or trail are intertwined, such that each emerge together. Neither quite exists without the other. Verbal thinking is what allows us to understand experience in the verbal form. Dancing is one way to understand non-verbal thinking, somatic thinking.... Visual arts and music have their own modes of non-verbal thinking, etc....
Yes.


Quote:
Originally Posted by River View Post
I've dabbled in the study of philosophy, and while dabbling in it I came to understand that the very notion of the possibility of non-cognitive knowledge is controversial among professional philosophers / academics. But I'm actually quite comfortable embracing a concept of knowledge which allows for knowledge to be either cognitive or non-cognitive. (We'll avoid for now the controversy over what the word "congitive" means!) Factual knowledge is presented as facts / words ... sentences..... Anyway, the phrase not-knowing which I used just isn't centered on a lack of factual knowledge, per se. One can both have factual knowledge about a person or a thing and also embody an attitude and awareness of "not-knowing" (which is a sort of modern zen phrase). Not-knowing, in this context, is basically a state of available readiness and openness of mind and body which tends not to be goal oriented. It's a quality of "presence" which embodies openness and wonder. Factual knowledge may be present, but it goes rather to the background as a state of rapt attention and presence emerges in the foreground.
That helped my understanding of the difference.
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Old 01-06-2013, 06:45 PM
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A "high verbal" person (like myself) is a person who has developed verbal communication skills to a fairly high level. That is, they know a fair bit about how to translate or interpret experience in language. (Language, as I see it, is grounded in experience.)
Actually, one of my superpowers is translation. I have an amazing ability to perceive, when two people aren't able to communicate, how to re-phrase so they can understand each other. I can see them talking, and see that they aren't understanding, and I can take one person's words, and translate so the other person hears what they need to get the concept.
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Old 01-07-2013, 09:34 AM
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River, I also think that vulnerability is a key element of intimacy, and that Western society doesn't have a clue about how to "handle" intimacy in all its forms. I will offer examples of what I mean by that.

Oftentimes, we will read that two actors met on a movie shoot or while appearing in a play together and got involved in a torrid love affair, only for it to all fall apart after the film or play is over. A film shoot, especially if far away from home, or a stage production, is an intensely intimate setting, where people are in close proximity with other people for an extended period, actors let their guard down to dig deep into parts of themselves in order to portray characters, and crew members have to cooperate closely with one another, all while everyone is, at the same time, immersed in this insulated small world working together on the project, and perhaps meeting personal challenges that they wouldn't normally have in their everyday life. They eat all their meals together, look out for each other, take risks, and find camaraderie with folks they never would befriend in real life. If one person catches a cold, everyone does. It is intense and it is intimate. So, oftentimes, two co-stars will start up a romance out of that situation, but it doesn't last after the film shoot or play ends.

Or we know people who met at an office job, and had to work closely together on some project, having become immersed in each other's "work life" in an intense way, and thought that the level of intimacy they experienced during this process was a basis for a relationship, so they start dating. But if one of them moves on and leaves the job or even just transfers to a different department, the relationship fizzles. This is because they tried to build a romantic relationship, not out of a connection that could be a strong foundation but, rather, out of the intensity of feelings they experienced in an intimate setting.

My theory is that people have a tendency to get confused about intimacy in a setting that is simply interpersonal and not sexual; they then try to turn the intimacy they shared and experienced together into a romantic and sexual relationship because they don't know what the hell else to do with all this closeness and revealing of themselves that went on during whatever situation they were in. They became vulnerable with each other, and then got confused about the intimacy. And especially if there is close proximity and some touch, even just hugs or hand-holding, for example, it is even more confusing because Western culture, or at least in North America, is much less comfortable with non-sexual touch and most people don't know how to handle it. So instead of allowing themselves to experience the intimacy, they rush into sexualizing it. They have sex and try to make relationships out of it. But when the intense situation, in which they first experienced the intimacy together, ends - whoa! - then they have the real person in front of them with whom they aren't actually compatible for the long term, and they didn't see that before because they don't really know each other as well as they thought they did, and they rushed into sex and let all those chemicals cloud their judgment and ability to see the actual person for who they are.

The initial period of intense intimacy was based on one aspect of who they are, the vulnerability might have been scary or risky and exciting to feel and share, the sex was based on confusion about what intimacy is, and then ultimately, the relationship didn't have enough of a solid footing to stand alone. Now, of course, some people are right for each other and make it work for years afterward, but more often than not, it doesn't happen. I think that, when intimacy - emotional, intellectual, sexual - can develop over time, in all aspects of being with someone, then there is a basis for a solid, loving relationship. And intimacy can keep growing. But, just because there is such a thing as sexual intimacy, we shouldn't just equate intimacy, per se, with sex or romance. We can be intimate in many ways.

I have thought about this a lot over the years. I hope that all made sense.
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An excellent blog post on hierarchy in polyamory:
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Old 01-07-2013, 12:46 PM
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Intimacy was/is always in the context of sex for me. Direct genital contact, maybe leading to orgasm. But sex itself has always been in the context of, and aftermath of, an emotional bond formed over some time. (Yes I've thought a lot about sex just for the sake of sex, but that would have diminished sex for me. So I never have done, and may never do anything resembling a one night stand.)

My point in bringing that up is one of context. Intimacy is a superset of sex, which also allows for the possibility that for some (few, many?) they are two words with the same meaning and weight. I can't make out any differences unless I take the readers/listeners perspective into account (and here I'm guilty of assuming that everyone I talk to has no problem with the concept of sex with a stranger). Now the terms are distinguishable under this assumption, but only in an external projection.

Does anyone else equate the two to that degree?
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